Dr. Michael R. Halleran, dean of arts and sciences at the University of Miami, was named the College of William and Mary’s fifth provost Friday.
He will replace current provost Geoff Feiss, who is retiring this summer after serving as provost since 2003.
“I believe [that] in Michael Halleran we have found a worthy successor [to Feiss],” College President Taylor Reveley said in a statement. “Dr. Halleran is a teacher, scholar and academic administrator of compelling distinction. He is committed to the liberal arts and to the sense of community that characterize William and Mary. In my judgment, he will be an extraordinarily able provost.”
The provost serves as the College’s chief academic officer, an important and prestigious position second only to the College president. Halleran will manage the faculty, allocate resources to departments, run the admissions office, oversee the registrar and direct research. He will also supervise the Muscarelle Museum of Art.
In an interview Friday, Halleran said he accepted the position of provost because he felt the College shared his dedication to liberal arts education.
“It’s an excellent school. It’s a school that’s self-described as being a liberal arts university, which resonates very much with me,” Halleran said. “I went to Kenyon College [in Gambier, Ohio]. I have a deep interest in student learning, but I’m also a scholar. I’m a researcher. And so, finding that right balance between a deep commitment to undergraduate learning, but doing it in the context of a research university, I think is ideal.”
After receiving his undergraduate degree from Kenyon, Halleran received a master’s degree and a doctorate in classics from Harvard University. A former classical studies professor, Halleran specialized in ancient Greek drama.
Halleran spent many of his teaching years at the University of Washington, where he served as the divisional dean of arts and humanities before taking his current position at the University of Miami in 2005.
Halleran said he will use lessons learned from his time at Miami in his work for the College.
“Universities are complex places,” Halleran said. “There’s a wide range of areas of study, of methodological approaches, of needs, that you have interests that coincide, but not always fully, of students, of alumni, of faculty, of staff. The provost and deans … are fundamentally in the people business. It’s about interacting with people, listening carefully, communicating and working on a common vision of excellence and opportunity. That’s what I think education should be doing.”
Feiss said he would advise Halleran to “listen and consult, then decide.”
“There are many very bright and creative folks here with great ideas but, at the end of each day, someone must make a decision,” Feiss said.
Halleran stressed that he does not plan to unilaterally run academics at the College.
“Let me be clear: I don’t come in with a five-point plan or a 10-point plan or a 20-point plan,” he said. “My job is to work with the faculty…with students, with others, to make sure William and Mary can provide the kind of academic excellence and opportunity that I believe it wants to be.”
Faculty Assembly President Tom White, a professor in the Mason School of Business, said the faculty approve of Halleran’s appointment.
“The William and Mary faculty strongly supports the appointment of Michael Halleran as our next provost,” White said in a press release. “Dean Halleran quickly demonstrated an understanding of our current strengths and challenges. In addition, he appears well-suited to help advance our academic mission by building on the effective model implemented by Geoff Feiss.”
Halleran’s appointment must be approved by the Board of Visitors during its April meeting before he officially becomes the College’s provost.